The following items were reported by correspondent Roger Renstrom from the Composites '95 conference and exhibition, held Oct. 18-21 in Anaheim, Calif. Niches the secret for Calif. companies
Business opportunities for composites firms in California exist in ``shallow niche markets,'' Rick Fingerhut, engineering consultant with NIST/California Manufacturing Technology Center, said in a Composites '95 presentation.
He listed highway columns and bridges, corrosion-resistant products, recreational equipment and surface transportation among emerging commercial applications for composites and reinforced plastics.
``Re-engineering is important to become competitive in the world marketplace,'' Fingerhut said, noting that composites firms should ``use market pull, not technology push'' to exploit the niches.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology and the state of California fund the California Manufacturing Technology Center, which employs 30 in Hawthorne, Calif., and helps firms increase productivity and competitiveness through technology, quality, manufacturing and business services.
PU board used to fabricate mandrel
Ciba-Geigy Corp's Formulated Materials Group displayed a polyurethane board that can be used in a one-step process to fabricate a mandrel.
The mandrel, in turn, can be used to produce nickel-shell tooling through a plating process rather than vapor-deposition process, William Geresy, market manager of adhesives and tooling materials, said.
The Ren Shape boards can be machined using milling technology.
The core product was developed initially for use on com-puter numerically controlled achining equipment based on a Ciba-Geigy development for machining master models for thousands of tiles for the space shuttle.
The Formulated Materials Group employs 250 and operates facilities in East Lansing, Mich., and Glendale, Calif.
Opportunities grow in composit market
The window of opportunity for composites enlarges each year, Russell Fisher said in a Composites '95 presentation, ``Marketing Composites vs. Other Plastics.''
``Despite the organized competition from thermoformers, there are many legitimate opportunities for composites,'' said Fisher, chief executive officer of Contemporary Products Inc. in Milwaukee.
He outlined composites' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and he presented a marketing road map.
``It almost gets exciting'' to look at what is available and how changes are taking place in resin systems and processes, ceramic tools, urethanes and thermoplastic rubber, he said. ``Those are things that make legitimate opportunities.''
The industries appear to be changing their traditional approaches to what percentage of glass they use. Those in thermosets are ``taking out glass to be like thermoplastics,'' and those in thermoplastics are ``adding glass and fillers to be like'' fiber-reinforced plastics, Fisher said.
Metal is ``the biggest single enemy of composites,'' Ed Boucher, president of the sales representative firm FRP Associates in Avon, Conn., told attendees.
``We spend $7 billion a year replacing corroded metals with new metals that corrode. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to replace carbon steel, stainless and alloys,'' Boucher said.
Fisher suggested focusing on ``the production and quality expectations of the customer'' as the way for composite fabricators to succeed.
Briefly. . .
Adtech Corp. grew 20 percent in sales last year, and, to cope with the ongoing fast pace, the formulator hired Barney D. Habecker as general sales manager in September as part of a reorganization. Adtech employs 45 and manufactures materials for plastic systems at its 44,000-square-foot facility in Charlotte, Mich.